DePaoli’s Off-Day Pens Notes on Neal, Letang, Kunitz & Asham
With the Penguins desperately looking for offense, pressure is slowly begining to mount on prized acquisition James Neal.
From a statistic standpoint, Neal is pointless in his first four games with Pittsburgh and has 1 goal in his last 14 games, collecting just 2 points during that span and a minus-5 rating.
Being pointless in four games is no need to panic but it’s Neal’s inability to be a factor in other areas that has been concerning to some.
There’s been times over the past four games where Neal hasn’t been noticeable for long periods of a game. He’s a player who should be a force along the wall and in front of the net on a consistent basis and he hasn’t been much of a factor in those areas thus far.
Neal’s true worth won’t come out until Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are back next season but he’s a player the Penguins are relying on heavily to contribute this season, regardless of whose playing center.
— For all of the buzz surrounding Kris Letang winning a Norris Trophy this season, he has no chance to win. Letang who is a minus-13 in his last 23 games, needs a strong finish of the season to secure a nomination for the award.
— Assuming there’s no other injuries once Chris Kunitz gets back, Arron Asham who is progressing from a concussion he suffered on Feb 1, has difficulty getting a spot back in the top-12. Disappointing season for Asham who the Penguins had high hopes for as he’s struggled to stay healthy.
— Whenever Sidney Crosby returns, whether it be at somepoint later this season or next season, head coach Dan Bylsma will be hard pressed to split up Kunitz and Crosby.
Bylsma hinted at this week when asked about if he was looking forward to seeing Neal and Crosby playing together at somepoint in the future.
— Enforcer Eric Godard is eligible to return to the lineup on Tuesday at home against the Buffalo Sabres. Godard has currently served 8 of 10 games (suspension).
A Neal – Staal – Malkin would be an intriguing second line next season with a lot of size.
— Playoff Watch: No. 4 Pittsburgh (65GP: 81 points) enters Friday with a one point lead over No. 5 Washington (65GP: 80 points) and 4 point lead over No. 6 Montreal (65GP: 77 points.
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